Canada vs. Belarus - May 23rd, 2016
The tournament kicked off on May 19th. We had a few team Canada members fight that day. My teammates Jessica Gladstone and Melissa Reaume both fought on May 21st. They faced very experienced and tough opponents. Jessica lost 29-28 to Norway and Melissa's fight against Sweden was stopped in the 3rd round. They fought well, listened to Art and grew from the experience. It was an honor training along side them and I am very proud of both of them. They will stay on as teammates extraordinaire, helping Hilary and I prepare for our fights, going on adventures and taking in the sights and sounds of Jonkoping.
I had my first fight of the tournament on Monday (May 23rd) against Belarus. I was relieved to get this one out of the way. Tournaments make me more nervous than usual. I think it is because there is so much going on at once...so much nervous energy from all the athletes bouncing around the venue...so much noise from the live bands...and then all the waiting around for your fight to begin.
My head was clear and my body felt great. I just wanted to get in the ring and fight already. It was a looooong training camp leading up to this. And then lots of travel and training here in Europe.
FINALLY it is time to fight.
I had a nice warm-up in the back. Art had me laughing as usual. I geared up and got in the ring and performed my Wai Khru. It always calms me down and helps me focus on the fight. It it way better performing the Wai Khru with a live band. You can feel their energy and rhythm. They are playing for you and you are dancing for them. Its a beautiful tradition.
Round 1 started and Belarus landed some snappy and heavy roundhouse kicks to start off. I stuck to the game plan and worked to find my range and rhythm. A few right leg kicks, remnants of my orthodox days, worked their way out of my system and Art instructed me to ditch them. Yes sir. My left kicks started landing and I worked to cut her off and not chase her around the ring. I followed her into the corner, clinched up and landed a left downward elbow. It landed clean and I felt her go limp in my hands. She was 8 counted and after that we knew that short range was where I needed to be. The scoring here is different than we are used to. Usually if you drop someone with an 8 count you will win the round 10-8. Here there that isn't the case, so I won the round 10-9. If you are absolutely, dominating and win all the rounds it doesn't matter but in really close well matched fights that point makes all the difference.
Round 2 started and she came out strong, teeping and landing kicks to keep me away. I found my range for knees and elbows and we knew I could end the fight there...but I was pushing too much and being impatient and falling into the clinch after my elbows. I needed to stay taller and hit crisper but I was too excited. I started to figure it out and managed to get long enough that I landed a few knees to the head. We continued to clinch and I was kneeing and elbowing and then the referee called the fight. Yay!!
Next up is Sweden in the Semi-Final round : )
A big thank you to everyone that has supported me on my journey here. Annnnnnnnddddddd of course we have a nice little video for you to enjoy.